Physiology, Foot Morphology And Health In The True Wild Horse

Researcher finds laminitis and surprising hoof problems with Przewalski’s horse

Pictured Above: Przewalski’s horses’, which is classified as the oldest living wild horse, ability to adapt to the environment enables it to survive extreme weather conditions that a domestic horse could not.

Farrier Takeaways

  • The foot morphology of wild horses is nearly identical to feral and domestic horses.
  • Laminitis and other foot pathologies aren’t a direct result of human influence.
  • Unlike domestic horses, wild horses enter into torpor, a near-hibernation state during harsh winter conditions.

The Przewalski horse, the only wild horse living today, enjoys what could be considered the “ideal” life. In Mongolia and Hungary, where Brian Hampson has observed them, the nomadic grazers roam the fence-free countryside. Traditional herdsmen are responsible for regularly monitoring the herds, but the caretakers don’t interact with or attempt to domesticate the horses.

Without the human influence of selective breeding, processed feeds or training, one might assume that these horses are free from ailments such as laminitis.

“We thought that most likely, we’ve changed the foot of the domestic horse over the last couple hundred years and that has made it susceptible to laminitis,” says Hampson, who is the co-founder of the Australian Brumby Research Unit and holds a PhD in feral hoof studies.

“We thought there might have been something that was different about the wild horse’s foot that protected it from laminitis,” he says.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Feral and wild horses aren’t exempt from these pathologies that can challenge farriers working on domesticated horses. While diet…

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Katie navarra

Katie Navarra

Katie Navarra is a freelance writer who draws from her experiences owning and showing horses, and inter­viewing the industry’s leading pro­fessionals.

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